“The girls did a great job in executing the game plan we set in place yesterday and this morning,” said Head Coach Rich Chambers. “We were concerned about Italy’s ball pressure but our guards took care of the ball with only 14 turnovers. We also did a very good job of keeping our level of defensive intensity up."
Nirra Fields (Lachine, QC) had a game-high 19 points; while Michelle Plouffe (Edmonton, AB) had 17 to fuel Canada on offense. Katherine Plouffe (Edmonton, AB) and Wumi Agunbiade (Pickering, ON) added nine points each. As a team, the JWNT shot 42% (28-66) from the field and got to the free-throw line 19 times, making 15 shots (79%).
For the third straight game, the game was won on JWNT’s defensive effort. They held Italy to 33% (19-57) shooting from the field and forced Italy to make 21 turnovers. They also dominated their opponents on the glass, out-rebounding Italy 41-23.
Agunbiade led the defensive effort with nine rebounds; while Michelle Plouffe had eight and Fields added seven.
“We came out to battle and play. We executed our game plan and we played together,” said Plouffe, who helped Canada get off to a quick start.
Canada took a 6-0 lead three minutes into the game, with Plouffe and Fields combining for 12 points. The JWNT took a healthy 19-10 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Italy climbed back into the game, and took the lead at the midway point of the quarter, thanks to defensive pressure and sharp shooting. However, a jumper by Megan Lukan (Barrie, ON) quickly tied the game, which sparked a 16-2 run to close out the half. The JWNT would never surrender the lead again.
In the second half, the JWNT continued to pour it on, out-scoring Italy 26-14 in the fourth quarter, en route to a convincing 24 point victory to remain undefeated in the tournament.
Although the JWNT finish preliminary play atop Group A, one of the team’s leaders, Michelle Plouffe knows that there is still work to do going into the next round.
“We need to keep trusting each other, our coaches and the game plan,” said Plouffe. “In the next round we need to be physical and mentally tough in every game.”
The Eighth Final Round consists of the top three teams from each group. The 12 teams that qualify for this round will be divided into two groups. The top four teams from each group will play in the quarter-finals.
The FIBA U19 World Championship for Women takes a day off on Sunday, and will resume on Monday, July 25 with the Eighth Final Round and the classification round. The JWNT will play Russia on July 25 at a time that is still to be determined. They will then play Japan the following day, and the USA on July 27 to conclude the next round.